They are associated with woodlands and can be found inside decaying wood, or rotting logs. The ants pictured here were found inside a rotting log in our timber. These ants will herd
In this photo the worker is carrying a larvae to safety after the colony was disturbed (by me...oopsie). The number one priority of the workers is to expand the nest sight, and to care for the offspring of the queen. These ants are like many other ants in that they forage for food, and will carry bits and pieces of insects, seeds and other foods back to the colony to feed on. These ants are quite strong (as all ants are) and are capable of carrying much larger prey species than they themselves are.
These ants are also reported to be parasitic on other ants in their genus...such as A. rudis or A. rudis picea.
The following additional information on this species was provided by Missouri's Ant Expert James Trager...."James, thank you for sharing your vast knowledge."
This is a common eastern US species of forests and woodlands, and also occurs in yards, parks and urban areas with large trees. It nests in dead trees, in rotting heartwood of living trees, and also in fallen logs. It is rare in prairie, but sometimes is found in decomposed wood in prairie groves or in isolated old trees. A. tennesseensis is a known temporary social parasite of perhaps all of the A. rudis-texana group species. The queen is small, shiny, stout-spined, and thick-cuticled, with long, stout propodeal spines, presumably all helping her gain entry to a host colony. See the pictures on this page and note the similar size but difference in build of the queen and workers: http://www.antweb.org/description.do?rank=species&name=tennesseensis&genus=aphaenogaster&project=illinoisants.
The food of this ant is mainly small invertebrates that inhabit dead wood in which it lives, and they are not as eager in the pursuit of sweets as many other ants. They mainly gather honeydew off the ground and leaf litter, rather than directly from the bugs, or drink from fallen fruit.
This particular species might be one of the prettiest ants I've ever seen in terms of color. With winter struggling to lift its chilly bonds, there is very little to see in terms of insect life. Everything is still tucked away safe and warm and out of sight. I am resorted to tearing open logs and peeking under rocks for anything living and moving. Oh the desperation of a winter-bound entomologist!